Back to regularly scheduled programming around here and clicking through our list of places to see on the West Coast of Florida. Before I tell you all about our latest outing, I’ll wax poetic just a bit about my favorite part of Florida. I’ll give you a hint – it isn’t the beach or the attractions. Actually my favorite part of Florida is the interior. I know, not exactly specific, but I’ll explain.
I dearly love a drive filled with pastures, 100 year oaks draped with Spanish Moss, orange groves, crops (most of which I cannot identify), even the pinewood forests, rivers and springs. The interior of Florida is filled with those views and what I remember from my childhood. This was truly going to Grandma’s house in Bushnell, FL. Lots of farming, cattle, those big ‘ole trees and you can’t get there on the big roads. Nope. This requires two lanes and maybe a flashing light every now and then. Towns like Astor, Sorrento, Mount Dora, Howey-in-the Hills, Yalaha, and Sumterville just to name a few. No big places and nothing much to see except those relaxing interior Florida views. We made that drive to all the family gatherings and although most of the groves have been replaced with neighborhoods and the turnpike has an exit, most of the rest is still just the same. Ahhhh. This is the Florida I love.
There is just such a nostalgic drive going from Bradenton to Solomon’s Castle in Ona, FL. When they say it is in the middle of nowhere, that is no joke. Not a thing there except the castle and interior Florida. It is just like I remembered the Grandma drive – even the orange groves were there.
We picked Solomon’s Castle since it is listed as a Weird Florida destination and we even found it on a list of 18 places you must see in Florida. Also it is only about 45 minutes from our current home base at the RV park.
A picture right off the bat so you can see this place. This was Howard Solomon’s dream and he built all the buildings on the 90 acre property and filled them with his art. He was a sculptor, woodworker, made stained glass pieces and liked to use what everyone else termed “junk”. He started this project back in the 70’s and it has grown from there. Apparently this place has been showcased by the BBC, CNN, PBS, and Animal Planet to name a few.
The outside of the castle is covered with shiny plates that were used in the printing press for the local newspaper. Lots of them! If you go, take the tour since it is narrated by plucky guides using Howard’s own script. The man was just full of puns and you just have to shake your head at what they say. Sadly, Howard passed away just in August, but leaves quite the legacy.
I’m not that into sculpture, but marveled at the clever use of the scrap parts in this one called “Breaking Out”. This has everything from motorcycle parts to part of an oil drum. You can sort of see a fish sculpture on the wall behind it and that one is made all from the bottom of beer cans.
I really liked this rendition of Woman with Hat. Apparently Howard copied many famous paintings using inlaid wood pieces.
The photo doesn’t show this well, but the windowsill is full of vintage cameras. Thus the name “Picture Window”. Told you – lots of puns. I think his stained glass pieces appealed to me the most and this one is made inside an old flywheel.
We also got here in time for lunch at the “Boat in the Moat”. Mr. Solomon built this ship replica and it is over 60 feet long.
Lunch was ok, but the best part was the really old bob-tailed calico cat that showed up right after we sat down. This rheumy-eyed gal sidled up to me and appreciated all the head rubbing I would give her. I was really missing my kitty, so it was nice to pet her for a while.
The grounds were full of lush flowers and of course I took a few flower shots so share.
A few shots of those old oaks I mentioned. They are loaded with Resurrection Fern and moss.
Loved this tree and the Resurrection Ferns on the branches. Pat volunteered to pose with my tree for scale, so showing you both renditions.
And the big daddy of trees. This is my interior Florida that I love.
This is going to seem like a big jump, but stay with me here. We weren’t the only ones who had a good day. After dinner, we took a trip to the Dairy Queen drive through for a peanut buster parfait. I handed over the money and the young man says “Do you want a pup cup?” Say what? I had no idea what what it was, but sounded like a good thing for Jackson and free, so said “sure”. Turns out Jackson scores himself a cup of ice cream before we even get ours.
Finally, the homily this evening had a sentence that spoke to me. The priest said “Gratitude is a practice”. Yes, so true. So, I’ll practice a bit and tell you all how grateful I am for all your great comments, supporting my blog, and following along with us on this journey. You guys are the “big” things and pup cups are the “little” things, and we’re thankful for them all.
Off on a new sightseeing adventure tomorrow, so stay tuned. See you on the way!